I Know What Lord John Grey is thinking… a look ahead to Outlander 3.3 “All Debts Paid”



The clip I can’t stop watching!

I keep re watching the clip from Outlander’s next episode “All Debts Paid”.  I find myself mesmerized by Lord John Grey.  I have to laugh at myself because I know these characters so well that I’m all up in what’s going on in Lord John’s head when he sees Jamie.  I’m already interpreting his facial expressions and body language!  This is one of the big issues we book fans turn TV series fans have to deal with…knowing too much! My knowing what Lord John is thinking is actually kind of ironic because I’m pretty sure this actor, David Berry, did not know as much about his character at this point in filming the story. I believe I heard him say he got the role one day and was on set the next. An actors’ life is a strange one to be sure. So, how did he manage to embody that character so quickly?  It’s gotta be magic or Kismet or some other kind of cosmic luck or a casting department that are clairvoyant geniuses! Seriously, their track record deserves its own olympics!  I KNOW Cait and Sam had no real idea just what kind of plum roles they had landed.  I think I remember reading about Sam telling a director/friend that he had just gotten something he thought might be a big deal. I’m pretty sure he knows now that it was.  However, that whole first season, I continued to wonder if they truly knew what great characters they were going to get to play.  Did they know they were going to get to play characters that struggled with real issues, made hard choices, lived with integrity, and evolved?  Do they know it just keeps getting better?

We fans have had eight books to get to know these characters intimately.  In Lord John’s case, Diana felt he was interesting enough to give him his own book series. His character arc of being a gay man in the 1700’s is interesting.  What would life be like for a gay man in a time when knowledge of your sexual orientation could get you killed and ruin the lives of everyone you care about?  Some would say not so different than now. Lord John is definitely one of my favorite characters. I’ve written before that I think he might actually rival Jamie in honor, integrity and loyalty and Claire for being caring and kind.

Recently, I read some research on the topic of loneliness.  I thought about that research this week after watching Outlander ‘s last episode “Surrender”.  Jamie, Claire, and Frank were all suffering from loneliness. The research I read suggested that loneliness was monstrous in its effects on the people who suffer it, mentally, spiritually, and physically.  They went on to distinguish what is true loneliness vs transient feelings of being lonely.  They concluded that the cause of loneliness was a want of intimacy.  I believe one of the deeper looks that Diana gives us in the life of Lord John Grey is also one of loneliness and a want of intimacy.

Psychoanalyst Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, an early researcher in the topic of loneliness, claimed that the lonely person was just about the most terrifying spectacle in the world. She suggested that we often guiltly avoid the lonely because it “touches on our own possibility of loneliness”.  The research, I read, suggests that there is a high frequency of loneliness in those who feel other, different, those that feel discriminated against. When the HIV epidemic was at its zenith, scientists found they were able to predict which patients would die sooner.  It wasn’t those who lacked family or support systems, as they expected.  It was those who were still in the closet.  The inability to be yourself and be accepted for who you are can have devastating consequences.  Lord John Grey is a man who must be in the closet and that takes its toll. When you are forced to present yourself as someone other than who you are every word must be watched, every look practiced, every touch measured, and every piece of information about yourself policed. A person forced to stay in the closet lives in constant fear of exposure or blackmail.  Intimacy and even friendships can, and at times must, be limited. Diana Gabaldon’s Lord John gives a look into the loneliness these sharp limits can create.

outlander-staffel3-john-grey.jpgWhen these two men, Lord John and Jamie Fraser, meet again in Ardsmuir Prison they are both lonely.  They are both in positions that require them to keep themselves somewhat separate from others.  Lord John is the governor of the prison and as such, holds a position of authority that makes few his equal. Jamie finds himself in a similar predicament. The men in the prison look to him as their leader and chief. As governor and as MacDubh, both men hold a position that naturally places them in a higher “social” station if you will.

Jamie has spent the years since he lost Claire in some type of “prison”.  Ardsmuir has provided him with more company than he has had in years and believe or not more freedom.  He is no longer being hunted, he is no longer a danger to those he cares about, but he is still without the intimacy that would relieve some of his loneliness. The prisoners give him something to care for and about, but they look to him as a leader more than friend and treat him with deference.  He is different and apart from them. John’s prison is the secret he must keep.  John has family and friends, but other than his occasional lover, he has no one with whom he can be himself.  He is different and apart from everyone even his own brother.  John has to measure every word he speaks and hide his true self from everyone.  He craves intimacy.

Despite, the difference in their stations and the odd circumstances under which they interact, it is not surprising that they would strike up a tenuous friendship. Had they met under different circumstances, they would have found they had a lot in common. John and Jamie are both learned men who share a love of books and philosophy. They are both soldiers who have had the responsibility of leadership. They get each other’s sense of humor. They are both fiercely loyal and protective of those they love.  And, I think as men of integrity, they recognize the honor in the other.

Lord John has the misfortune to fall in love with Jamie, a man who can never return his feelings.  Jamie has very real reasons for associating homosexuality with the abuse he suffered at the hands of BJR, and his reaction to John’s revealing of his desires is nothing short of violent and complete rejection. The fact that they are able to be friends after all, and in the end, speaks volumes about both men. I can’t help but believe that Lord John’s friendship became the most important of Jamie’s life and his for John, as well. I believe that each was able to help the other heal.

There was not easiness between them any longer—but there was honesty. And that was a thing he had had—ever would have—with precious few men.—Lord John in The Scottish Prisoner, Chapter 18

John challenged Jamie’s beliefs about love and friendship and made him a more tolerant and empathtic man and Jamie gave John the acceptance he craved and a purpose of sorts, someone worthy to love.

Could you call a man who would never touch you- would recoil from the very thought of touching you- your lover? No. But at the same time, what would you call a man whose mind touched yours, whose prickly friendship was a gift, whose character, whose very existence, helped to define your own?

—-Lord John in Lord John and the Plague of Zombies

I am so looking forward to watching this relationship develop, watch the show handle another difficult subject with sensitivity, and wonder at the power of acceptance and love.






45 thoughts on “I Know What Lord John Grey is thinking… a look ahead to Outlander 3.3 “All Debts Paid”

  1. Nancy C.

    That is one of the many things I loved about reading the books – that these two men were able to have a true friendship after a bit of a rocky start. Long-lasting loving friendships are gifts, and I know that Jamie and John recognized that their friendship could survive the awkwardness it must have been in the beginning. I just know that the TV version will honor this. Thanks, Beth.

  2. Carolyn Johnson

    Remember that Lord John is still mourning the loss of his lover Hector at Culloden, a terrible loss for him. He has gone all these years alone, because of the danger of approaching other men. When he first sees Jamie in the video clip, you can see him hold his breath then remember to breathe. I think he is intensely interested in Jamie from the first moment, and is drawn to him. He may even almost fall in love with him at that moment.

    David Berry is a very skilled actor, a fit foil for Sam. I saw David in a long and wonderful series from Australia, called “A Place to Call Home,” in which he plays a closeted and married gay man in the 1950’s, who eventually comes out. His performance was so real and deep, that I was absolutely thrilled to see he was going to be Lord John, as I am so fond of Lord John, and wanted him to be well portrayed in Outlander.

    This season looks as complex and satisfying as the other seasons. I am so excited.

  3. What a treat Beth 2 blogs in as many days – Kate (that’s me) is a happy lady. I’ve watched the clip of Episode 3 many times too trying to get a fix on how Dave Berry will portray Lord John. After 2 seasons of Outlander I’m now much better at setting aside my book hat. I shall have a better feel when I’ve seen Episode 3 LOL.
    I’ve always felt that while Jamie has many male friends and acquaintances through out his life it’s his friendship with Lord John that replaced the close relationship he had with Murtagh. I’ve often wondered how many people knew John’s secret, I suspect Hal knew maybe even his mother. I hadn’t really given much thought to how lonely Lord John would have been because he had to hide his true self.
    I loved seeing the friendship between Jamie and Lord John develop and how each came to value that friendship. I can’t wait to see how that plays out on the TV series.

  4. The Scottish Prisoner is my favorite book in the entire Outlander universe and I’ve been waiting impatiently for Lord John to make his appearance. Truth be told Lord John is my favorite character of all the books written by DG. There is something that is just so human about him especially as compared to Jaimie who at times, seems too honorable, too self sacrificing, too brave and too strong over the course of 8 books to the point that for me at least, he wasn’t always believable. I never felt Jaimie’s emotional vulnerability as strongly as I felt LJG’s and I also believe that he is a man of great integrity and caring.

    There is a quote by Fernando Pessoa that I believe describes LJG. “The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.”

    For me, LJG, is Diana Gabaldon’s most honest character even with all that he must keep secret.

  5. Marge

    In reading about the clip for 3.03 (which I have seen several times), it struck me today that when Jamie is reminiscing with Lord John about Claire, Lord John had interacted with Claire all those years ago. Maybe both men forgot that.

  6. Cece

    In one of the books, LJG says to himself of Jamie, “He knows!” He marveled that Jamie knew his big secret, would keep it and would be his true friend. He was accepted and appreciated for who he was by someone he cared so much about-an invaluable treasured relationship through the rest of the books. The Scottish Prisoner is my favorite book, too, Theresa, with Voyager a close second, because of their relationship and Jamie’s with Willie. I love LJG in all the books, because, among other wonderful qualities, his observations can make me burst out laughing! Of all her characters, I think DG’s intelligence and wit shines the greatest through him.

  7. Meg Thomas

    Seriously you are in my head! I just finished rereading “The Scottish Prisoner” in anticipation of this week’s episode and the, at long last, introduction of Lord John Gray… Yes you nailed it! Well done and thank you.

  8. Joan Tinnin

    Beautifully said. He is a favorite character of mine. I sorrow for him and his feelings for Jamie. I believe Jamie is amazing for a man of his time with the particular history he has, being able to be this lovely man’s friend

  9. Judith McParland

    Hate to be picky but Jamie is not called Mac Dub. That makes him sound foolish. He is called MacDhu. His father, Brian, had black hair and would have been called Brian Dhu (Black haired Brian). Mac means son of, so Jamie would be MacDhu, son of Brian Dhu!

  10. Joyce Johnston

    i look forward to your posts and am never disappointed ! LJG is a beloved character and i ached for he and Jamie’s friendship in “Written in my own hearts blood”! jj

  11. Christa Thomas

    Excellent writeup of one of my most favorite characters, not just in Outlander, but in all books. I can’t wait to see how David Barry and the show develops LJG and his friendship withJamie.

  12. Lisa N.

    Wow, this is the first time I’ve read your blog — and have now become a follower. Outstanding! Thank you — from one fan to another. I just can’t get enough of this story or the characters. Really well done!

  13. Donna Allen

    Ditto for me, all the comments from fans who enjoy your exploration of the characters beyond the TV screen portrayal.
    Now that I’m not required to read specific literature (as in college!)I appreciate the full spectrum of plots & characters & I love reading. Thank you, Beth, for taking time to exchange thoughts & opinions on the TV series. Speaking of loneliness, when it comes to reading the entire collection of Diana’s books, I was lonely & needed someone to share my love & enthusiasm!
    Thanks again to you Beth & others who share their thoughts here.

  14. Rita Wood

    Love your thoughts on Lord John, especially “he might actually rival Jamie in honor, integrity and loyalty and Claire for being caring and kind.” Another very insightful piece, Beth. Loved it. I’m really looking forward to the very handsome and talented David Berry’s portrayal of Lord John. Casting has hit it out of the park once again.

  15. Lesley Ferguson

    I certainly agree with your comment Rita! LJG is also a favorite of mine. Beth, though I don’t comment often, I always enjoy your blogs for they are insightful and so thoughtful!

  16. Leah

    Thank you for giving me another perspective to ponder. I must admit that LJG did not excite me because I saw him as selfish, pushing his ‘wants’. So I was OK with skipping any/all episodes in which he appeared. But I am rethinking; maybe I might watch now. I understand friendship and sacrifice, but not when/if it has conditions-and I always felt what LJG did was ‘conditioned’. So I never saw him as this altruistic hero. But I’m open to seeing him differently if in fact he really has no expectations!

    • he did some pretty amazingly unselfish things for Jamie without any expectations. At one point he just decides to love Jamie whether knowing full well his feelings would never be returned the way he wished

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